Windows Phone 8 just launched yesterday. Here's what you need to know.
While Microsoft has been previewing Windows Phone 8 for a while now, they announced a few new features yesterday. Besides the resizeable live tiles and camera lenses Windows Phone 8 now allows Live Apps which can display information on the lock screen. The Skype app is now able to run in the background.
Other new features include Data Sense. It helps you use less data by compressing webpages before they're sent to the phone (like Blackberry, Hiptop, etc), helping you find hotspots, showing you how much data each app uses (like Android) and by reducing the amount of data used when you're close to your bandwidth allocation.
Kid's Corner is a really cool looking kid mode for Windows Phone 8. You choose which apps you want your kids to use and then launch Kid's corner. In Kid's corner they'll be able to use any of the apps you approve but won't see any of the ones you don't want them to.
Finally, the People Hub allows you to organize your contacts into rooms. It will allow you to group message them, share calendars, that sort of thing.
While the new changes are welcome - I can't wait to try Kid's corner myself - to me the real story is new Windows Phone hardware which was sorely due for an update.
There was an HTC 8X, Samsung ATIV-S and Nokia 920 to play with. Of the 3 I thought the 8X felt the nicest in my hand. It's solid and is easier to hold. I can't wait to try the Nokia 920's image stabilized camera - should be perfect for taking pictures of my kids.
While the ATIV-S feels like a Galaxy S III it didn't really speak to me (and yes, a GS3 is one of the phones I carry around). I don't know if it's the vulgar metal-looking plastic or what. Then again, maybe it will grow on my after I use it for a while.
The other big story is having the same UI across phone, tablet and computer. If you buy into the new Windows ecosystem you'll get a relatively seamless interface.
I tried the Surface RT and some touch-screen Windows Phones yesterday and it's a pretty cool experience.
Who's excited for Windows Phone 8?
My summary of yesterday's webcast follows:
I'm watching the Windows Phone 8 webcast now. Here's the url in case you can't find it:
Joe Belfiore is on stage now:
WP app store now has over 120,000 apps.
Microsoft worked closely with Qualcomm to optimize WP for their dual-core Snapdragon processors.
The core of the smartphone experience hasn't change in the past 5 years. Mentioned that iPhone got it right and then Android copied it.
With Windows Phone they didn't want to copy it and wanted to figure out a better way.
People are the focus of Windows Phone.
They're trying to re-invent the Smartphone experience around you.
Now talking about the new live tiles which can be re-sized. The old ones on 7.5 weren't.
New Live Apps can integrate into the hubs
the lock screen can now show more information. It's powered by Live Apps.
Here's an example with Facebook:
Your lock screen can show a collage of photos from Facebook
Facebook notifications can show up on lock screen
There's a standardized way for other apps to show information on the lock screen.
Besides Facebook there's are new apps for Twitter and Skype (among other apps).
The Skype app is always on now, it's able to run in the background without draining your battery.
Soon Windows Phone will have 46 out of the top 50 apps that are used on other Smartphone platforms including...
Temple Run along with other games which use 'Unity'.
Angry Birds Starwars
Pandora is coming to Windows Phone in early 2013 - it will include a full year of music with no ads
New feature: DataSense
It allows you to surf the web more while using less data. It also lets you view how much data each app uses (I'm guessing like Android).
It compresses every page you browse (I imagine similar to how Blackberry does it).
It allows you to view nearby WiFi hotspots
If you're running out to data on your monthly plan it can change how the phone consumes data (presumably by disabling automatic updates)
Microsoft did a bunch of testing to see how much data it saves. They say it allows you to surf 45% more with the same amount of data.
This is a carrier feature. Verizon will be first. That means Verizon will be getting a Windows Phone 8.
This is pretty carrier friendly. It's one of the reasons why carriers loved Blackberry.
You can specify which apps your kids play with.
there's a Kid's corner switch in settings. It has a list of what programs are on the device. You can check which ones they can use. It can also limit access to music and pictures.
It's completely changes the way the phone looks. It has a start screen with just the programs they can use. They can even customize their own start screen.
Jessica Alba is now on stage. Note to Jessica, don't wear super high heels when you're on stage with short guys like me or Joe.
She's extolling the virtues of Kid's Corner.
People Hub now has a feature called 'Rooms'
It's basically a group that you can share with. So you can make a family room with your wife and kids. You can make a room with your co-workers.
You can send group messages (not sure what messaging method this is using. Is it email, Facebook messenger, skype?
Also allows you to view your groups calendars. You can add iPhone users to a room.
Now talking about how SkyDrive allow you to move files and photos across XBox, Windows 8 and Windows Phones. It allows you to work on Office document across the 3 platforms.
You can now create One Note notes by picking up the phone, hitting a button, saying 'note' and then allowing your phone to transcribe the note to SkyDrive.
Now talking about camera lenses feature (allows you to use 3rd party effects FROM the built-in camera app instead of requiring an external program) and how photos upload automatically to SkyDrive. You get 7GB of SkyDrive space for free.
Talking about Music now. If you create playlists on your PC they automatically show up on the phone.
Now Steve Ballmer is talking:
Now Greg Barber (Microsoft) and Rob Boyton (Rogers) are coming up to talk about Canadian device availability.
Bell: HTC 8X, Samsung ATIV-S
Rogers: Lumia 820, 920, HTC 8X (8 and 16GB versions), 8S) and ATIV-S. They're also getting a Samsung Windows 8 Tablet that has LTE.
TELUS: HTC 8X,
HTC 8X will come with a 2.5V headphone amp.
Business features include device encryption, Business Hub and LOB app installation (presumably an IT dept can choose which apps can be installed).
Now Rogers is talking about how great Windows Phones run on Rogers. They'll have One Number, My Account, Rogers Anyplace TV for the Windows Ecosystem.
Rogers is taking the Windows Phone 8 launch very seriously. Guess they really want it to succeed.